Friday, January 19, 2018

London Boat Show: Sam Davies and Tracy Edwards


I arrived particularly early for the Legends sailing talk with Tracy Edwards and Sam Davies (above) and that was just as well as it was really popular - with good reason.

Tracy Edwards, MBE, was of course skipper and driving force behind Maiden, the first female crewed yacht in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht race (now the Volvo), which won 2 of the 5 legs and ended up second overall.

She has inspired many others to follow her footsteps and helped them directly, including Sam Davies, inviting her to join the crew of the multihull Royal SunAlliance.

Both have mega projects they are working on. Edwards has rescued Maiden and is now planning a global voyage to raise funds for charities that support female education. Apparently there will be berths available in return for contributions - worth looking out for that later this year. You could even sail with Edwards, though I get the impression she could be a bit of a tough cookie.

And Davies is off again on another Vende Globe! Must admit to be rather thrilled by this one in particular as she really lit up the 2008-9 circumnavigation. She really seemed to be not just relishing the challenge but actually enjoying it, and you can see why France has taken her to heart with her natural girl-next-door charm:


Her new boat is being upgraded to the latest foils and then she'll have a good long period to get familiar with it before the race. Bon courage, Sam!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

London Boat Show: Navigation Tips with Stokey Woodall


My chat with Conrad Humphreys touched on navigation techniques but later there was to be a whole talk about it from Pete "Stokey" Woodall (above).

I'd seen him at a previous London Boat Show when he'd described the star clock (below) for which the answer was not 42 but 41.5. I'd even gone off and done a bit of maths to work out that it was really 41.58 which I guess is close enough.


It was a very entertaining talk, including such gems as rolling up a chart into a cone and using it to locate fog-horn directions to within a few degrees (apparently that really works). Also a metal frying pan can be used to shield an AM radio so that the direction of the transmitter can be identified from the two possible directions 180 degrees apart.

There was also some more celestial navigation tips based upon one of the stars in Orion, Mintaka, that rises or sets due East / West:

Fun and informative!

Monday, January 15, 2018

London Boat Show: Conrad Humphreys and C4's Mutiny


Last year Channel 4 broadcast a programme called "Mutiny" in which they re-created the voyage of Captain Bligh after the Mutiny on the Bounty in which he was cast adrift in the Pacific in small boat.

The programme showed 9 men sailing a 23 foot open wooden boat 4,000 miles from Tonga to Timur and there was plenty of drama on the way. The boat itself was on display at the last boat show (as blogged here).

The channel's notes can be found here and it can be seen that there was only one named crew member, namely "Anthony Middleton, of SAS: Who Dares Wins".

There is a difference between a non-sailing commissioning editor and a sailor, because from my viewpoint the crew was round the world sailor Conrad Humphreys and some bloke from the marines (apologies to Anthony Middleton for that lack of knowledge).

In most cases there was perfect agreement between the two apart from the final leg where a lack of wind and water meant there was a discussion about whether to row towards wind patches.

TBH, if I'd been on that boat I know which of the two I'd have listened to the most carefully, namely the one that had sailed round the world and knew a thing or two about how to keep moving when trapped by a high pressure, but the episode was cut by someone who shared the channel's view that saw first and foremost a TV personality from the SAS.

Anyhow, it was great to meet Conrad Humphreys at the London Boat Show and hear about the voyage first hand and see some of the photos on his iPad. He also showed some of the ship's biscuits they survived on and if they were only eating a couple of those a day its no wonder they lost a lot of weight.

We also had a brief chat about navigation and the techniques they used which was pure old school techniques like dead reckoning and celestial navigation. I asked about whether he'd read Tristan's "How to Read Water" book and he hadn't but knew about Tristan and was wondering if he should reach out, to which I said yes, as that sounds like a great combination.

It was all very interesting and I look forward to hearing what he does next.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

More London Boat Show photos for Tillerman

 Spent yesterday wandering around the London Boat Show in between listening to various talks.

More pics and stories to come but of course first up those all important photos for Tillerman...


Monday, January 08, 2018

The full moon and storm Eleanor in a tide gauge

The weather seems to be in the news a lot in the first few weeks of 2018.

The difference in temperature between my friends in Australia and east coast America seems to be about 60C compared to which our blighty weather seems comparatively mild.

But we did get storm Eleanor blow through around the time of the full moon which led to fears of a storm surge on top of a spring tide and so the Thames Barrier had to be closed.

Previously I'd posted how closing the barrier could be read in the behaviour of the flow and this time I kept an eye on the live tides at Chelsea to see what the impact would be.

From what I understand (via Twitter) the barrier was closed at 12:15 and it can be seen that there is a sudden dip in the water height at Chelsea, but not at the same time. It seemed to take 45 minutes for there to be a significant change in the height, but then there are several miles from the barrier to this gauge.

After the dip, the levels continued to rise but more slowly, due to the Thames river flow rather than incoming tide, with a maximum delta from predicted height of 2.23m - though the flow had been less than predicted anyway. Danger averted the barrier opened when the water levels equalised later in the day.

So lots of factors from the moon to the weather to one of London's largest infrastructure assets all influencing one simple gauge.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Top 10 Posts of 2017


Happy New Year all! Time to look forward at 2018 and back at 2017.

2017 was a difficult year as had to cancel two big sailing trips and so there was a distinct lack of boating. But what were the top ten posts of 2017?

By view count it was:

  1. London Boat Show pics for Tillerman
  2. Paddle boat Italie on Lake Geneva (above)
  3. Scorchio!
  4. So sad
  5. Boating weather
  6. Boats! Boats! Boats! ... on the Thames at Putney
  7. Sleaford Mods going down like B.H.S on the Thames
  8. Book review: "A Race Too Far" by Chris Eakin
  9. London Boat Show 2017: Recreation of Bounty Voyage
  10. Boris Staysail's vinning sailing "alternative truths"

By number of comments it was:

  1. (Untitled post)
  2. Boats! Boats! Boats! .... at Richmond
  3. Five Gigs for Glastonbury Weekend
  4. Niagara Falls trip 3/3 - Chicago!
  5. Quiz: How many ferries across the Thames are there in London?
  6. London Boat Show pics for Tillerman
  7. Boating weather
  8. Sleaford Mods going down like B.H.S on the Thames
  9. Book review: "A Race Too Far" by Chris Eakin
  10. Before "All is lost"

My favourites (in no particular order) were:

  1. Totally Thames Installation: Future Dust
  2. The Ferries of London: the secret Greenwich Ferry
  3. The London Stones: Yantlet Creek
  4. The Ferries of London: Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry
  5. Visiting Bazalgette's magnificent sewers
  6. Paddle boat Italie on Lake Geneva
  7. Two lessons from my first yacht sail
  8. Before "All is lost"
Yes, struggled to get the full 10 favourites.

It was noticeable how view counts decreased in Q4 - did anyone else notice that? Maybe should have posted more London Boat Show pics for Tillerman.

I wonder what 2018 will bring...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Buff LOLs Yachting!!!

G'day all! Buff Staysail here! Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Well here's one for the books. I gave me ol' ma an iPhone and she'd has been getting into texting me at all times of night and day. But she says she doesn't understand Buff's replies - all this OMG and LOL nonsense.

So as its Christmas, Buff offers this easy to remember translation of the most common terms:

LOL: Luff Or Leach? Jeez, who can remember which side of the sail is which? Does it matter anyway?

OMG: Or Maybe Goose-winged? That's sailing downwind, not the Christmas day roast, obv.

IMHO: I Might Hike Out. Or not. Probably not.

TLC: Total Lines Cock-up. Typically happens during a spinnaker hoist - the skipper should never have asked for a gybe set

WTF: Wingsail Takes Flight. As in the America's Cup, until that nose dive of course!!

FFS: F*** Foiling Sailing. What traditionalists say about the America's Cup.

BTW: Boat Taking-on Water. Now where's that safety boat?

ISO: I'm Sozzled, Ok? While not technically a sailing thing, it is a good excuse for navigators that "forget" one of the marks

YOLO: Yachting Optional, Lunch Obligatory. 'Nuff said, you know ol' Buff!!

NSFW: Not Sailed For Weeks. JP, I'm looking at you!!!

IRL: I-forget-what-about-the Reaching Line. Seriously, mind's a blank on this one

Well there are probably more but its xmas and ol' Buff needs to lie down for a bit for some mysterious reason. But maybe you can fill in some of the missing ones for me.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

This is Buff Staysail, over - hic - and out!!


Monday, December 18, 2017

Its a boring machine!

Work on the Super Sewer (aka the Thames Tideway Tunnel) progresses fast up in Fulham.

As previously posted, a giant "acoustic shed" has been constructed down which a shaft is being dug to get down to tunnelling level.

Down this great shaft will be lowered the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) which was came up the river at the end of November in bits on a barge from Kehl, Germany:
These bits are currently being assembled into the TBM (top pic) before it is moved inside the shed and down the shaft to start its job drilling the main tunnel itself.

Before that it was, of course, important to get that all important photo of the crew with the cutting head:

It certainly gives a sense of the scale of the tunnel to see the engineers in their orange jackets dwarfed by the tunnelling machine they are constructing and will guide through those kilometres of London clay.

This TBM is called Rachel after Rachel Parsons who sounds like an amazing women. Her Wikipedia article describes how she was director on the board of the family's Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company and had a Master Mariner's Certificate. In 1920 she was one of a group of eight women who founded the engineering company Atalanta Ltd, which for a time had offices on the Fulham Road.

Sounds like she'd have got on really well with Victoria Drummond, who's book about her life as a marine engineer with the Blue Funnel Line (amongst others) blogger earlier.

I wonder if there's any record of them meeting?

Monday, December 11, 2017

The London Stones: on the charts

Earlier this year I visited the London Stones and there was a comment on one of the posts about whether they have any navaids so they can be identified to shipping.

The answer is no, which could partly be related to how they are historic objects and partly to the fact that they are typically close to shore in drying parts of the Thames estuary, well away from the shipping channels.

However they are marked on charts, which you can see for yourself above (the one off Chalkwell / Leigh / Southend-on-sea) and below (Yantlet Creek), in both cases taken from the Navionics Webapp.
The one on the north is described as "City or Crow Stone" while that on the south as "London Stone", and nearby the latter can be seen the buoy marking the creek's entrance.

There was no sign of the lost Yantlet or Lobster Island, washed away over the centuries, though I did notice an anchorage at the inlet to Yantlet Creek.

This remote location had no yachts bobbing at anchor the day I visited, though some yougsters did zoom up and down the creek in a jetski:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Wingardium Leviosa vs. Expecto Patronum

It might be a long time until the Oxford vs Cambridge University Boat Race but the crews and busy preparing out on the Thames.

Today the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club crews have their Trial Eights match-up and they have name the two crews Wingardium Leviosa and Expecto Patronum.

Given that Cambridge University does indeed look like something out of Harry Potter this is very appropriate.

As to which is which (above & below photos) I must admit I have no clue.

However it is possible that I have been hit by a confundus charm.


Updated: victory for Expecto Patronum!

TBH, I'm not surprised as the Patronus charm was clearly more useful to Harry Potter than the levitation one

Monday, December 04, 2017

Book Review: Sailing in Grandfather's Wake by Ian Tew

I initially had the wrong idea about this book. For some reason my expectation was that given the author was someone's grandson he must be young, but it turned out if anything he was older than the grandfather in question.

The author sailed round the world in the years 1998 - 2000 while the grandfather did his half-circumnavigation just before the start of the Second World War in 1938-39. Indeed, it was the start of the war that cut the voyage short in New Zealand.

It was an enjoyable read though not without flaws. The book is part written by Ian Tew and part the diary of his aunt who was crew of the first voyage. It must be said that the earlier writing is a lot better and the later rather full of exclamation marks.

Indeed the first voyage seemed to have numerous advantages, including:
- a more beautiful yacht, 30 foot gaff yawl called Caplin
- more sympathetic crew and master in Commander Graham and his daughter Marguerite plus Dopey the ship's cat (the author admits he's quick tempered and not the easiest person to get along with)
- more unspoilt locations, before the times of ubiquitous development and no doubt plastic in the oceans

If you read blogs or vlogs of those doing circumnavigations you'll know the sort of thing they encounter. Things break and they have to wait for replacement parts, there's confusions and tensions about paper work not being right, locations are idyllic apart from those that are over-developed, crews get sea-sick and argue....

An addition to the circumnavigator's bookcase rather than a classic like Hiscock's Around the World in Wanderer III or Liza Copeland's Just Cruising.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Death in the Ice at the NMM

Death in the Ice is an exhibition currently on at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) about Franklin's lost expedition to find the North-West Passage.

The expedition set sail in 1845 with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and 129 men: all were lost.

At first they just vanished, last seen by some whalers sailing west, and then nothing was heard for years and years. Expeditions were sent to rescue them, then when hope was lost, to discover the truth about their fate. In the last few years the ships themselves have been found, sunk in icy waters.

This brilliant exhibition considers this tragedy from many angles. It starts with a description of the land and its people, the Inuit. It is remarkable how much of the story of the Franklin expedition was recorded in their oral history, and shaming how little it was believed by Victorian Britain.

One artifact on display was this Inuit model of a European ship, the wood it was made from no doubt drifted from outside those treeless wastes:


Note this photo, like all images on this post, comes from the NMM web site as it was one of those "no photography allowed" exhibitions.

There was also a copy of the wood map of the coastline around Tasiilaq, as posted previously. This one had a copy of the copy which you could feel.

After the scene has been set there is a description of the British view, from Frankenstein to the art work showing explorer's ships battling mountains of ice:


There was amazing video that showed the various expeditions and how they gradually revealed what has been called the Arctic Labyrinth:


There was then a description of life on-board the boats, with lots of artefacts, the rescue missions and Franklin's wife Jane's exertions to find them.

Alas what they discovered was too much for Victorian Britain, and the tales of cannibalism considered so horrible that none other than Charles Dickens slandered the explorer who repeated what the Inuit had told him.

Finally there was the discovery of the wrecks by the Canadians and some videos of dives plus the bell from the Erebus.

It was very moving to think of the possessions of the men, such as the shoe in the photo at the top, found in the wreck, kept unchanged by the icy waters.

Also, amazingly, many of the officers had had their photographs taken which were on display, so there was the feeling that they were not just names but real people.

It must have been a terrible end, stuck in the ice, tragically close to the break-though and achieving their goal of discovering the North-West passage.

Definitely worth a visit: on in Greenwich until 7th January 2018.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thames Tideway Tunnel in Fulham


I've blogged before about the Thames Tideway Tunnel, aka the Super Sewer, and at the time of those posts it was mostly in the planning stage, with debates about where the access sites should be. 

This proved controversial - for example the one planned in Putney at Barn Elms was strongly objected to (including by round the world sailor Tracy Edwards) and so another site in Fulham was chosen instead.

Now work is progressing rapidly and there was an open day at the Carnwath Road site where you could have a look round and talk to engineers.

The most visible sign of progress is the huge "acoustic shed" (top and bottom pics, before cladding was put on) which is designed to keep the noise down when drilling gets serious to allow 24 hour operation. Within it will be a shaft down which the tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be lowered.

This can be seen in the model below: the real thing is 150m long with 8m diameter head, part of a set of TBMs to drill the 25km of tunnelling required:


This will generate a lot of waste and rather than hammering the local roads will be taken out by boat with two new tugs on order called Felix and Christian to handle the lighters from the Fulham site.

When the work is complete there'll be a small public park where the shaft end of the acoustic shed is at the moment plus the quay side for the lighters will remain as a protected wharf.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the works progresses!